Changing Clothes While Driving
8 steps for reinventing your career while currently employed

by Pam Lassiter

Have you ever tried to change clothes while driving? Superman had it easy. His telephone booth wasn’t moving at 70 miles an hour while he was putting on his tights.

Photo courtesy of Gareth Simpson
Photo courtesy of Gareth Simpson

Changing careers while you’re fully employed at a fast-moving company can be equally hazardous to your health. You have responsibilities at home and at work. There are many reasons why you can’t find time to think about career next steps today. But you deserve better.

While you are employed is the best time to evaluate alternatives. The right answers don’t emerge overnight, so why procrastinate? This must be done in stages, however, as if you were changing clothes while driving. You have an employer that needs to be treated fairly, a current job to do and a reputation to be maintained. Take this one step at a time.

  1. Make a decision.

    If your work isn't feeling right, decide whether to take action or just to moan about it. Trust your instincts. If you don't feel good when you're driving to work in the morning, it's probably time for a change.

  2. Choose your new career.

    If you haven't programmed your GPS with your destination, how could it possibly direct you there? Start by choosing one of the four levels that might need changing, then learning about it. Switching more than one level at a time makes it trickier, but it's still doable.

    • Job

    • Profession

    • Company

    • Industry

  3. Plan for mid-course adjustments.

    Where will you need to pause before you arrive at your destination? This is the time to do some research because you may need some new skills to be competitive.

    To find out what you're missing, go to a job aggregator like www.indeed.com or www.simplyhired.com to learn current skills and vocabulary. Search for your current job title, or something close to it, but don't fill in the location. You're not responding to jobs; you're doing market research. Find at least 10 job descriptions you like and look for recurring words to uncover the fresh skills you need and the key words for your new resume.

  4. Build these future skills.

    What skills do your future company and your current one both need so you can build skills now that will pay off twice? Why is it in your current boss's best interest for you to develop these skills?

  5. Play up your industry and job knowledge.

    If you like your current industry and profession, own it! Play up your industry and professional knowledge if you just want to change companies. You're the easiest one to hire for someone in your current industry.

  6. Be known.

    Join a professional association in your future industry and profession. You can track trends that are important, learn the right vocabulary, meet decision makers and access their job bank.

  7. Drive home your profitability.

    Keep track of your record over time-dollars, time saved, results, and profitability. This earns you more at performance appraisal time and also vividly spells out results that impress future employers.

  8. Develop fresh conversations.

    Use your personal email address and phone number to set up low-profile conversations to explore marketplace needs and trends, not job openings. Job openings are too finite and too many people are chasing them. Help people in return so it isn't a one-way street.

That’s not so bad, is it? You can drive while changing clothes and be safe at the same time. You owe yourself job satisfaction whether it’s within your current company or elsewhere, and you can plan for it while still delivering on your current job. You may even become more powerful in your current job as a result of what you’re learning.